How do I Carry This Crap!

Now that I have a working bicycle, and a plan to use it, I need to start considering needs beyond peddling and shifting gears. Like the title says…

I’ve had a military surplus messenger bag for several years and it’s actually quite useful. It has eyelets on the back that could feasible be used to clip into some sort of handlebar mounting system; it could also be converted into a pannier bag pretty easily. In fact on a few outings with the old cruiser I’d used the shoulder strap wrapped around the middle of the handle bar as a makeshift mount! If I want to have pannier bags, I’ll need some mounting mechanism, possibly some sort of rear rack setup. I really like the look and feel of the Pletscher CS rack. It’s a form factor that’s been around for a really long time, so it has a classic feel that fits with the older bikes that L & I own.

I wonder what other types of inexpensive racks and carriers are available, and fit the old bike aesthetic?

Going Places

One of the reasons I have for starting my bike experience as a commuter is that I really need a destination when I go someplace. It may be a psychological quirk of mine, but if I don’t know the destination I will immediately feel lost and want to go home.

Map

Where the heck am I? What’s going on!

Without the destination all I really know is that I’m in a city, some distance from home. There’s no point of reference so I can’t plot my next direction. It’s kind of a helpless feeling, it’s also completely irrational. The Ladyfriend does not have this hangup, so it frustrates her to no end when she wants to go for a walk or a bike ride.

“Let’s go for a bike ride!” She says

“Where to?” I reply

“Just around, maybe up Wellington, or something; I don’t know”

“… That makes no sense” I say.

“AAAaaahhhrghhh!” She replies.

This is more what I like:

Ahh, these are known places that I can navigate to and from with ease!

Ahh, these are known places that I can navigate to and from with ease! There are multiple routes I can take as well.

I did this when I was a little kid as well, before I left home I’d think about the route I was going to take. “First up around the top block, then down the steep hill, back past home and over to the bike jump where I’ll probably lose my chain, through the forest I’ll take the lower path then go up past the wood pile and back out of the woods…” and so on.

What is a Bike Even?

When someone says “bike” or “bicycle” what do you think of? I’m guessing it’s probably not this anymore:

Michaux boneshaker

Or even this, despite there being a time where this was the pinnacle of cycling technology:

Velocipede

Things change.

For me, when someone talks about bikes, or bicycles, I immediately imagine that they’re talking about a ’70s or ’80s ten speed. That’s just the default “bike” for me. Maybe because those are the bikes that I coveted as a kid growing up in the eighties. Maybe my aesthetic simply prefers the clean lines and diamond frames for unknown, subconscious reasons.

Of course, technology doesn’t stop just because something is pretty. New materials, new manufacturing processes, science and ergonomics are all influencing modern bicycle design. Incredibly lightweight materials that can be made in a more aerodynamic shape than simple round tubing, suspension and hydraulics, electronic shifting, all of these things lead to bicycles that would be barely recognizable twenty-five years ago

Fit as a Fiddle!

A while back I posted about my successfully riding my bike around the block. Not a major feat by most standards, but hey, baby steps are important. One thing I didn’t mention in that post was a discovery I made about myself. I’m out of shape.

Wow am I ever out of shape. Sure, riding in snow is probably more effort than riding on a dry street in the summer time; but I was pretty winded after riding for less than ten minutes! This bodes well for a work commute that I’m expecting to be a twenty to thirty minute ride at first.

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I’ve had a pretty sedentary lifestyle since I started working on technology for a living. I remember working for my Grandfather’s building supply in my teens I was pretty damn fit. Not athletic sprinter style; but eight hours of hauling drywall, cement, lumber, and building materials with few pauses, endurance type fitness. After that I worked in a manufacturing plant making LVL, and while it wasn’t nearly as intense as 100 lb bags of cement, I was active.

For the last six or seven years, however, the most intense labour I’ve had is lifting a Mac Pro up onto a work bench…. maybe twice. I do spend a lot of my current days walking, and that can leave me with tired legs at the end of the day, but my heart rate stays pretty level. I think I’m getting all of the weariness and sore muscles of exercise without many of the actual health benefits.

My early years kept me relatively fit by default, but now that I’m older and in a new industry I have to actually pay attention to my activity level. That’s something I’ve never really learned how to do. I need to find new patterns and behaviours that will result in more activity, because looking for activities for their own sake doesn’t seem to work with me. the Ladyfriend is often frustrated in her attempts to get me out for a walk or other activity when I ask a question that is very important to me, “where are we going?” I don’t have a justification for my desire for a destination, but it’s there none the less.

Different Cities, Attitudes, and Styles

I haven’t moved around a lot in my lifetime. I grew up in a small town in B.C., lived in a different small town in Alberta while I was failing to attend college, then back to B.C. for several more years. I moved to Calgary shortly after my partner L. started her BFA in the city and started on my path as a computer technician.

Calgary was an okay city, too conservative by far, and sprawled over more square kilometres than probably necessary. This made riding my bike for much more than entertainment somewhat futile. When I lived close to work I wasn’t yet interested in riding all that much, and when I lived far away it really wasn’t feasible. The last couple of years in Calgary is when L & I actually started riding a little bit more often, and while there isn’t much in the way of protected bike lanes, there are some dedicated paths through and around the City core. Once, just to see if it was possible, I did actually ride my bike to my workplace – on a day off so I wouldn’t panic about getting sweaty and lost. This is when I learned that the bike I wound wasn’t really suitable for that particular need. Calgary isn’t in the mountains, or even close really, but it is hilly. The three speed cruiser was simply too heavy, too poorly set up, and too difficult to ride. It was only a little over six kilometres, but it took more than an hour to get there.  I’m sure there is more infrastructure than I’m aware of, but it was never very visible from my vantage point. Commuting to work in Calgary seemed like more effort than it was worth.

Winnipeg seems different so far. Maybe it’s because I’m paying more attention, but it was pretty easy to pick up a free map with the local bike infrastructure. It’s also a whole lot flatter! I can see that there’s a clear path from home to work that includes a variety of types of paths, roads, and shared spaces. One of the first things I saw when I moved to Winnipeg a few years ago was a protected bike path. I’d never seen anything like it, so I immediately put it up on Instagram (as you do.)

Proper bike lane in Winnipeg.

A photo posted by Nelson Milum (@nelsonmilum) on

This was, I think, one of the things that started me thinking that I might actually like biking again. I have to remember that it will probably never be like when I was a little kid riding around the block and through the forrest paths, but it can be a new kind of fun. I’m looking forward to it.

More is Always Better, Right?

I’ve barely used the Three Speed at this point, but already I’ve acquired another bicycle. I can justify this in a couple of ways. One; it was free. I noticed over the last couple of years there are several bicycles in the communal storage area in the apartment where I live. I mentioned the abundance to L and my landlord, and he said “Feel free to take the ones that don’t belong to anyone.” So, if my neighbours in this four suite apartment do not have a claim on a bike in the basement, and the landlord doesn’t, then that bike has been abandoned by a previous tenant and is up for grabs.

This prospect excited me, because hey, free is the best price! So after some idle inquiries to my neighbours over then next few weeks I discovered that there were indeed two bicycles in the basement that do not belong with any person who lives here. I was clear about my intentions when asking the neighbours and to be honest, one of them had a super cool bike that has a bit of history in this area, and I might want a similar one in the future… I kind of wish that Sekine was an abandonment.

Long story short… or short story shorter since I’m not incredibly verbose.

Meet Gaspode:

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This is after a quick dust wipe once it came upstairs, as it looked like it had at least ten years of dust layered on it (In a relatively non-dusty basement with low traffic).


Outside my Comfort Zone

Prior to L and I purchasing the Eaton Gliders, the only bicycle I’ve owned for the last twenty or so years has been an Electra Rockabilly Boogie beach cruiser. I bought it in 2005 or 2006 without a significant test ride, because it looked cool and I had more cash than brains. It never really occurred to me that I lived actually in the mountains. To be fair, it’s still a pretty cool looking bike, but it really doesn’t fit well. I can’t ride the thing for more than an hour without significant numbness occurring in the saddle area; not fun at all.

2004 Electra Rockabilly Boogie

A long time ago in a home town far, far away

This was not the ideal setup, the seat is as low as it can be, and the handlebars are at a weird angle. I’m over six feet tall… the seat should probably come up a bit. I currently have the bike with the seat up pretty level with the top of the head tube, and it’s definitely more comfortable to pedal. I’ve had various handlebar positions but regardless of saddle height, handlebar angle, or any other adjustment I’ve tried to date, the numbness will come. I think that next time I take that bike out I should try a more level saddle and get the bars back towards my body. Maybe after learning more about bike fit, and what different angles can mean for a ride I’ll try some new adjustments and find a way for this bike to fit, sadly though, it could simply be the wrong size for me.

Book Look: Glenn’s Complete Bicycle Manual

The How and Why Book of Bicycles

Step-by-step instructions for complete disassembly, assembly, adjustment, and maintenance of American, European, and Japanese-built bicycles – hubs, stems, hanger sets, and all. Each task is supported with keyed photographs and detailed drawings clearly depicting what is to be done and how. Tells you how to buy intelligently, to assemble, to adjust, and to test a new bicycle from the packing crate to comfortable riding. Explains how to fit your machine to “you” and how to maintain if for maximum efficiency. Gives helpful hints to more enjoyable and safe bicycling, including cross-country touring, with observations on some notable trips – across the United States, throughout Europe and the Near East, on a bicycle. Tells your how industry, city, state, and federal agencies are aiding cyclists.

And all that’s just on the Cover!

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So far, this has been a super handy book. The pictures and diagrams are simple, clear, and relevant. The text is the same. My only complaint is that it sometimes makes knowledge assumptions and uses terms not intended for a novice audience… As far as complaints go, this one is pretty mild considering that the book doesn’t actually claim to be written for novices, it only claims completeness. It also dates itself with some “how-to mansplain chain tension and upside-down drop bars”.

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Jake the jock: This is the chain right? Mary the Mechanic: Good job! Try not to lick the grease this time.

The escort of a modern miss explains the importance of proper chain tension to the efficient operation of the front and rear derailleur units. He will probably advise her that having the handlebars in the turned-up position invalidates the warrantee of most manufacturers, places added strain on the brake cables and levers, and is not considered safe practice. However, the young set (almost always the girls) seem to prefer the bars up rather than down, even though they have to pedal harder and use much more energy because of poor riding posture

Overall I think this is a great book that will continue to have utility long into my vintage bike education. Considering the cost of the book – about $5 CAD used compared to books like Sutherland’s Handbook for Bicycle Mechanics the lowest I’m seeing is around $75 USD Used – I’d say it’s well worth the investment!